Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain that occurs in the area supplied by the facial nerve. The common name for this pain is facial nerve pain. With trigeminal neuralgia, simple and otherwise innocent activities such as washing your face, putting on make-up or even drinking a glass of water can trigger unexpected and excruciating pain.
In the early stages, the attacks may be mild and brief, but the process progresses and the searing pain can turn into long and excruciating attacks.
Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more often and is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50.
There are a number of treatments available so you don’t have to live with this pain. Nowadays, facial nerve inflammation can typically be effectively treated using drugs, injections, physiotherapy, or, in severe cases, surgery.
Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia
The trigeminal or facial nerve is the largest nerve in the brain. It contains both sensory and motor fibers. It is the sensory nerve of most of the head and the motor nerve of many muscles, especially the masticatory muscles.
Symptoms may appear individually or several together
- Severe, sudden and electric pain
- Sudden onset of pain triggered by, for example, touching the face, chewing, talking or brushing your teeth
- Pain lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes
- Seizures may recur for days, weeks or even months – some people may have periods of pain-free periods after a single seizure.
- Continuous burning pain is usually a symptom of spasmodic trigeminal pain.
- Pain may occur anywhere on the area supplied by the trigeminal nerve, including the face, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, or less commonly around the eyes and forehead.
- Pain appears on one side of the face, rarely on both sides.
- Pain may be concentrated in a single, definable point, but may also spread over a larger area.
- The attacks may become more often and intense over time.
When to seek medical advice
If you have a burning, stabbing pain in the area of the face (forehead, jaw, jaw) that comes in spasms, even if it is triggered by something as “harmless” as a caress. If this pain does not respond to over-the-counter painkillers
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia
In trigeminal neuralgia, also known as facial neuritis, the function of the trigeminal nerve is “disrupted”.
Trigeminus neuralgia may be related to multiple sclerosis or similar disorders that damage the myelin sheath that protects the nerve. It can also be caused by a tumour that presses on the nerve as it grows.
Trigeminus neuralgia can be triggered by a brain lesion, stroke, facial accident, injury, dental or ear surgery or other disorder. In other cases, trigeminal neuralgia is responsible for surgical injuries, stroke or facial trauma.
It can also be caused by the dilatation or change in pressure in the subcranial blood vessels (veins or arteries) that come into contact with the trigeminal artery. This “pinches” the nerve and causes it to malfunction.
Unfortunately, the simplest of activities could trigger the shooting pain. The most common being: A touch to the face, sleeping, dreaming, washing your face, talking, applying make up, smiling, laughing or shaving.
In the majority of cases, a diagnosis can be reached by simply describing the complaint, the nature of the pain, its location, and its underlying cause.
- Pain type. The pain associated with facial nerve inflammation is sudden, shockingly severe and brief.
- Location. Areas of the face innervated by the trigeminal.
- Triggering causes. Pain is usually caused by minimal impact on the face, such as touching, eating, drinking, talking, or even a cool breeze.
Although your doctor may perform a number of tests, most of the time he or she is not trying to prove facial inflammation itself, but is looking for an underlying cause such as cancer, vasodilatation, multiple sclerosis. In such cases, not only the pain but also the cause must be treated.
- Neurological examination. A physical examination will help to identify which branches of the trigeminal nerve are affected and may help to decide whether the symptoms are caused by, for example, pressure on the nerve or something else.
- MRI scan. The aim of the scan is to see if multiple sclerosis or a tumour may be causing the pain. In some cases, a contrast-enhanced scan (vascular staining) may also be done to assess the condition of the arteries and veins.
Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Typically, the initial approach to treating facial nerve inflammation involves medication, and often, additional treatment is unnecessary. However, if the symptoms are a result of an underlying disease or lesion, the treatment should target the root cause. For those who do not respond to oral medications or experience unwanted drug side effects, local injections or surgery (releasing the nerve from pressure) may be the solution. This may be recommended by your doctor.
Options for home treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia
You can employ various physiotherapy methods at home to manage trigeminal neuralgia. Electrotherapy, Microcurrent treatment and softlaser devices are some examples to mention a few.
A more modern and effective electrotherapy treatment than TENS, which rapidly reduces pain and also has a healing effect by repairing damaged cell membranes, i.e. eliminating inflammation.
This diagram shows some possible treatment points. Always place the negative pole against the ear. Position the positive pole based on the pain’s extent, as indicated in the diagram. Keep in mind that you can treat only one or two points at a time since microcurrent devices typically support a maximum of 1-2 channels.
The Globus microcurrent devices Medical Treatments program group contains microcurrent treatments. You can use the Acute Pain, Edema and Bruising programs. It is best to alternate between these.
You can learn more about the general rules of microcurrent treatment from my Microcurrent treatment in practice.
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- TENS | EMS, NMES, FES | MENS, MCR | Iontoforezis
- 12 Microcurrent (Pain and anti-inflammatory treatment)
- max. 4 channels (8 electrodes)
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- TENS | EMS, NMES, FES | MENS, MCR | Iontophoresis
- Built-in training programs
- 23 Microcurrents (pain relief and anti-inflammatory treatment)
- max. 4 channels (8 electrodes)
- Function 2+2 (possibility to run 2 different programs at the same time)
Soft laser treatment
Medical studies also confirm the pain-relieving effects of soft laser. Both red and infrared lasers are suitable for treating the nerve running near the skin surface.
Treat the nerve along its course by moving the treatment head from point to point, requiring an energy input of 4-5 Joules per point. Depending on the power of your device, the time required to treat a point may vary. For example, with the Personal Laser 400, 10 seconds per point is needed.
This figure shows some possible treatment points. These points serve as sample treatment points, so not all points should receive treatment; rather, focus on those points where pain branches extend. Depending on the type of your device, the shape of the points may vary.
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- laser power class 3
- 808 nanometer laser beam
- CW (continuous wave) laser
- 400 mW power
- 12.5 sec / 5 Joule
Nerve stimulation can reduce symptoms, but this is only a symptomatic treatment and has no curative effect.
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- two-channel TENS unit
- modulated, conventional, endorphin and burst TENS programs
- can be used for pain relief in any area of the body (skull excluded)
- only symptomatic treatment, but no curative effect